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Congresswoman Nikema Williams Introduces Bill to Undo Generational Damage from Highway Construction Projects

April 26, 2021

ATLANTA – Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) issued the following statement after introducing the Restoring Neighborhoods and Strengthening Communities Act. The bill will create a new grant program that will reconnect communities by investing in the redesign or removal of highway infrastructure built through communities of color. The bill will also establish community land trusts to help generate wealth for the communities that already reside in these neighborhoods. President Joe Biden made reconnecting neighborhoods a necessary infrastructure investment as part of the American Jobs Plan. 

“Atlanta is home to one of the country’s most devastating highway projects,” said Congresswoman Williams. “The construction of I-75/85 and I-20 came at the expense of the connectivity of Black families and businesses – a price we are still paying today. The Restoring Neighborhoods and Strengthening Communities Act is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to take a bold and visionary step to right this wrong that has impacted communities of color across the country. This is not just an infrastructure issue; this is an equity and environmental justice issue. As a Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am proud to introduce this bill and remain committed to finding solutions for people who have been impacted the most by these urban renewal projects.”  

The bill would undo the damage of highway projects built following the enactment of the 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act. Cities across the country used federal funds to build highways through cities to connect white families moving to the suburbs. These projects ran through Black and Brown neighborhoods and further segregated cities. 

The bill is supported by several leading organizations in the Transportation and Infrastructure space: 

“For decades, the federal government has funded highway projects that have displaced, divided, and segregated communities of color—often intentionally,” said Josh Freed, Senior Vice President for the Climate and Energy Program at Third Way. “Now, as Congress eyes a generational investment in our infrastructure and economy, we need to make sure that both are working better for everybody. Third Way applauds Congresswoman Williams for her introduction of the Restoring Neighborhoods and Strengthening Communities Act. This bill will help undo the damage that urban freeways have caused to communities across the country and rebuild the wealth, opportunity, and connectivity we deprived them of for so long.” 

“In this moment as our nation grapples with systemic racism, the Restoring Neighborhoods and Strengthening Communities Act is an opportunity to right the wrongs of an unjust highway program that has caused irreparable economic and public health harm on communities of color,” said Beth Osborne, Director for Transportation for America. “Transportation for America thanks Congresswoman Williams for her leadership and stands ready to support her effort to provide communities damaged by highways the opportunity to rebuild, restore, and remain in their communities to build the wealth and opportunities that were taken from them for decades.” 

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